Faculty Spotlight: An Interview with Janice Walton-Hadlock DAOM, L.Ac

Janice has been teaching at Five Branches University since 1999. She received her Master’s in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Five Branches University, and her B.A. in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Janice is the founder of the Parkinson’s Recovery Project, a non-profit organization that provides free information about the latest findings regarding the cause and treatment of Parkinson’s disease from the perspective of Asian medicine.

She is a founding member of the Parkinson’s Treatment Team of Santa Cruz, and a member of the European branch of the Parkinson’s Recovery Project, the Parkinson Stichting of Amsterdam, also a non-profit. Both the Treatment Team and the Stichting focus on treating people with Parkinson’s disease and training health care practitioners in the use of techniques she developed.

Janice is an active researcher in the field of Parkinson’s disease. Her findings have been published in many journals, including the peer-reviewed American Journal of Acupuncture, and the Journal of Chinese Medicine. Her analysis of a Parkinson’s drug study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine’s correspondence section. Janice is the author of four books: Trouble Afoot, a book about the underlying causes of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and the effective treatment for this disorder (published by the Parkinson’s Recovery Project, 2008, 690 pages), Medications of Parkinson’s or Once upon a Pill (Parkinson’s Recovery Project, 2003, 650 pages), Tracking the Dragon, a classroom text on advanced channel theory (published by Fastpencil.com, 2010), and Yin Tui Na: Techniques for Treating Dissociated Injuries (published by Fastpencil.com, 2012).

Q: You have a BS degree in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. What brought you to Chinese Medicine?

A: I was drawn to acupuncture because I had a successful treatment from an acupuncturist but he couldn’t explain what it was he was doing. My curiosity was aroused. So I studied acupuncture. I had no thought of changing careers at that time.

Q: Most acupuncturists work either as general practitioners or specialize in pain management or women’s health. What brought you to specialize in treating people with Parkinson’s disease?

 A:   I never decided to specialize in treating Parkinson’s disease. A few years after starting my practice I just happened to have treated several people with Parkinson’s. These people just happened to hear about me as a general practitioner and then happened to come see me.  They all recovered, which I knew wasn’t supposed to be possible. Over the next few years, I found I was seeing quite a few people with Parkinson’s. They just happened to come to me. They didn’t know that I had seen people recover. They came for treatments for their other problems.

I asked a colleague what percentage of her patients have Parkinson’s disease. She said, “Have what?” She’d never seen anyone with Parkinson’s.

Eventually, the conclusion was forced upon me that, for reasons unknown, people with Parkinson’s were being attracted to my office.

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Q: How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Parkinson’s disease, and what was your original finding?

A: From a TCM point of view, the problem is Rebellious Qi (backward-flowing electrical currents). Many acupuncturists mistakenly think that the tremor of Parkinson’s must be Liver Wind (characterized by sudden, erratic electrical jolts, often associated with emotional strife or sudden blood vessel problems). Of course, it is not. Liver Wind causes irregular movements: Liver Wind “comes on suddenly and is unpredictable”, by definition. Liver Wind is a term that refers to stroke or sudden onset movements or paralysis. The tremor of Parkinson’s, which is rhythmic and steady, is driven by a tremor deep in the brain, increases over the years, and is more closely related to the tremoring that is defined as a Heart or Pericardium Qi deficiency (insufficient electrical or emotional support for the heart and area around the heart) – a fear-based problem, a problem that arises when a person is dissociated from somatic feelings, also known as dissociated from his heart. This dissociation can prevent a person from recovering from life-threatening trauma, a condition that correctly, and temporarily, causes Rebellious Qi in the Du [central-back] and Stomach electrical channels. My first observation was that all my Parkinson’s patients had Rebellious Qi in their Du and Stomach channels. This is extremely rare. I’d never seen it before. I didn’t even know it was possible for Qi to actually, tangibly, run backwards, even though I’d heard the phrase. I had assumed that “Backwards Qi” was a metaphor! From that finding, I worked backwards over many years and finally came to realize that the entire Qi flow pattern of severe traumatic shock was flowing constantly in people with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s tremoring is caused by Heart and Pericardium Qi deficiency. This is not a new theory. This is a very old theory, but few people, in modern times, study this aspect of Heart Qi deficiency. It’s more popular to just call it, incorrectly, Liver-Wind.

Q: Once you realized that you stumbled upon an interesting discovery, what were your next steps?

A: I had to wonder if other acupuncturists had noticed the backwards-flowing channel Qi. I posted my findings on the internet, asking for feed-back. I was dismayed to learn that most acupuncturists don’t even know how to feel channel Qi. I had always been able to feel it, and had just assumed that others could, as well.

Acupuncture is not used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The main focus of treatment is teaching people how to change their thought patterns so that they can move on from the incorrect neurological/attitudinal shifts they performed, years earlier, in response to trauma. Because acupuncturists are not allowed, by law, to do counseling, I do not do this work, which has a “counseling” feel to it. Instead, I have written up and published the type of cognitive behavioral changes that people need to do, and they do it on their own if they want to recover.

As a side note, most people with Parkinson’s (ninety-five percent) also have a foot injury that has failed to completely heal. This can also contribute to the backwards-flowing Stomach channel Qi that is present in people with Parkinson’s. A type of extremely passive holding treatment, which can be performed by anyone – a friend, a spouse, a child – can help correct the foot injury and allow it to fully heal. Then again, if a person is successful in changing his thought patterns, the foot injury will usually heal by itself and no foot holding is necessary.

In a small percentage of people with Parkinson’s, about five percent, there has been no neurological/attitudinal shift. These people have backwards flowing Qi that mimics the Qi flow pattern of trauma, being held in place by the foot injury. These people will recover simply by having their foot injury supported until the foot begins to relax and starts to heal.

In other words, no acupuncture is needed – only a mental change and some supportive foot-holding treatment. For that matter, acupuncture should never be used in channels that are running backwards.

Q: What would you recommend to prospective students who are considering studying Chinese medicine? 

A: I would suggest that anyone trying to make a career decision sit quietly and let the mind grow still. Do this often, and for as long duration as possible each time. When, after learning how to grow still inside, and when true peace seems to be resting in your heart, then ask your heart whether or not you should pursue a specific plan.

Again, thank you for the interview. You can find out more about, Janice and her practice through her website at: www.pdrecovery.org